It’s a situation all gym goers have encountered before and will inevitably face it again. You’ve just finished up another tub of pre-workout, and it’s time to get a new one. Now, you could keep using the same old, worn out tired brand of pre-workout you’ve been using for the past few months, but you’ve soured on its taste, and it doesn’t seem to have the same “pop” it used to.
So, rather than force yourself to double or triple scoop that same product to get any noticeable effect from it, why not spend a few minutes doing some searching for a superior option?
Sounds easy enough doesn’t it, just head down to your local supplement shop or pull up your favorite internet retailer and pick one out. The problem is, there are literally thousands
of options for you to choose from when selecting a pre-workout, and no shortage of poorly formulated, overpriced ones waiting to steal your hard-earned money.
That’s where this article comes in. Ahead, you’ll find out why most other products on the market fail to do what a pre-workout should do (enhance your performance
) and what are some “must have” ingredients you should be looking for the next time you go to drop some dough on a new performance enhancer.
Where Most Pre-Workouts Fail
There’s no shortage of reasons why certain pre-workout supplements seemingly have little to no effect whatsoever on your mood, focus, energy, or performance. Those reasons include:
- Under-dosed ingredients
- Ineffective ingredients (i.e. ingredients that don’t belong in pre-workouts)
- Too many stimulants (i.e. feeling “cracked out”)
- Not enough stimulants (no “kick in the pants” factor)
- Clumpy powder due to poor shelf stability of ingredients
- Terrible flavor (yes, how products taste does matter these days! There’s far too many great-tasting pre-workout that are equally effective for you to have to choke down some nasty powder.)
There’s a slew of other reasons why 99% of all pre-workouts you see on store shelves are downright terrible, and note worth the plastic they’re packaged in. But while we could go on forever about what’s wrong with the majority of pre-workouts, let’s get refocused on why you are here -- to find out which ingredient you absolutely should have in your pre-workout!
Including these ingredients will have an immediate and noticeable impact on your workout, so without further ado, let’s dive into the essential pre-workout ingredients you MUST HAVE
before hitting the gym!
Essential Pre-Workout Ingredients
Any pre-workout worth its salt must have caffeine. It provides the foundation from which all the other components of a pre-workout expand upon. Caffeine has stood the test of time and is renowned for its ability to increase energy, focus, mood, and motivation. But caffeine is much more than an effective central nervous stimulant, it’s also a valuable performance enhancer. Numerous trials have shown that caffeine improves endurance, stamina, time to exhaustion, strength, power, and pain tolerance. <1,2,3>
The key to caffeine is in finding the right dose for you.
Pre-workout doses can range anywhere from 150mg all the way up to 600mg in a single scoop! The “sweet spot” for caffeine for most trainees tends to fall in the 250-300mg range. Find a pre-workout in that range, and you’ve taken your first step towards finding a great pre-workout. Steel Pump™ packs 300 mg Caffeine Per Serving.
Nitric oxide is a highly important signaling molecule that improves blood flow via vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). With greater blood flow comes increased nutrient delivery, improved waste removal, better performance, and bigger pumps!
The premier nitric oxide boosting compound on the market is citrulline malate. Formed from a combination of l-citrulline and malic acid, citrulline malate is a proven nitric oxide boosting ingredient. It’s even more effective than the old “go to” NO-booster L-Arginine. <4>
Citrulline malate has been heavily studied and shown to boost athletic performance, energy production, and endurance all while reducing fatigue. <5,6>
A vastly underutilized ingredient, Peak ATP is an exogenous form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) developed by TSI USA, Inc. that’s been shown to actually enhance cellular levels of ATP! Now, supplemental ATP is nothing new to pre-workouts, but the vast majority of these forms offer poor bioavailability, rendering them essentially ineffective. Peak ATP, however, has been shown research trials to be incredibly bioavailable and increase ATP levels. <7>
Studies demonstrate that Peak ATP provides a readily usable fuel source for muscles, improving their ability to contract with less fatigue. <8> Additional studies note improved body composition and lean mass as well as increased vasodilation (a.k.a. PUMPS). <9,10> Steel Pump™ contains 450 mg Per Serving, the clinically proven dosage.
To get the most out of every rep of your workout, you need to be focused
. Without focus, you’re mindlessly going through the motions, never really get the most bang for your exercise buck. Alpha GPC solves your focus follies by providing the body with a highly bioavailable source of choline.
Choline is an essential nutrient that’s used in a number of way by the body, but none is more important than supporting acetylcholine (the “learning” neurotransmitter). With more acetylcholine, you’ll have that dialed in feeling while training and a much stronger mind-muscle connection. <11>
Your Pre-Workout Solution
There’s a lot that goes into formulating an effective pre-workout. Don’t get duped into buying a product merely for the cartoon label or bargain bin price. Select a pre-workout supplement formulated by researchers who know the ingredient you need (and the doses needed) to produce results whether it be crazy focus, pumps, or a thermogenic pre-workout
supplies the ingredients you must have in your pre-workout to enhance performance and set the stage for a PR-shattering pre-workout.
- TREXLER ET, SMITH-RYAN AE, ROELOFS EJ, HIRSCH KR, MOCK MG. Effects of coffee and caffeine anhydrous on strength and sprint performance. European journal of sport science. 2016;16(6):702-710. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1085097.
- Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807.
- Richardson DL, Clarke ND. Effect Of Coffee And Caffeine Ingestion On Resistance Exercise Performance. J strength Cond Res / Natl Strength Cond Assoc. February 2016. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382.
- Curis E., et. al; “Citrulline and the gut;”; Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care; September 2007
- Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Lord T, Vanhatalo A, Winyard PG, Jones AM. l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Aug 15;119(4):385-95
- Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22.
- Lu N, Wang B, Deng X, Zhao H, Wang Y, Li D. Autophagy occurs within an hour of adenosine triphosphate treatment after nerve cell damage: the neuroprotective effects of adenosine triphosphate against apoptosis. Neural Regeneration Research. 2014;9(17):1599-1605. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.141811.
- Rathmacher JA, et al. Adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP) supplementation improves low peak muscle torque and torque fatigue during repeated high intensity exercise sets. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012, 9:48.
- Wilson JM, et al. Effects of oral adenosine-5’-triphosphate supplementation on athletic performance, skeletal muscle hypertrophy and recovery in resistance-trained men. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013, 10:57.
- Lowery RP, et al. Oral ATP administration improves blood flow responses to exercise in both animal and human training models. Presented at 10th Annual ISSN Conference. Colorado Springs, CO. June 2013.
- Marcus L, Soileau J, Judge LW, Bellar D. Evaluation of the effects of two doses of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on physical and psychomotor performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14:39. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0196-5.